It is amazing how much actors make per film. Major Hollywood studios are prepared to pay the most popular stars whatever they want if it means the success of the film. In addition to veteran award winning actors, action stars in big budget films are likely to bring in high salaries for each film they contribute to. Many actors double as producers and earn additional fees beyond their acting services. Seasoned actors often opt for “backend” profits (a percentage of what the film grosses) as well as their film salaries. This ensures they will continue to receive profits from a sure to be successful movie. Of course, most of the highest paid actors also own their own production companies and have lucrative endorsement deals.
Here are 20 actors that make the most money per film.
20. Chris Pratt – $12 million
The handsome young “All American” actor broke out as a television series actor in the WB Network’s Everwood. He went on to play rolls in television’s The OC and Parks and Recreation. His major break into film came with Jurassic World and as “Star Lord” in The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. Pratt’s role co-starring with Jennifer Lawrence in Passengers earned him $12 million. His upcoming movies include the sequel to Jurassic World and the latest installment of The Avengers.
19. Ben Affleck – $14 million
The young Boston actor had a role in the classic Field of Dreams in 1989 for just $30. Less than a decade later, Affleck and his hometown friend Matt Damon wrote the script for Good Will Hunting and split the money, a total of $600. They both won the Academy Award for Best Screenwriting in 1997. Affleck earned $300,000 for his role in the film. Building a steady film career, Affleck’s salary rose to $10 million for films including 2014’s Argo and 2015’s Gone Girl. 2016’s Live By Night earned Affleck $12 million and the same year The Accountant earned him $14 million.
18. Melissa McCarthy – $14 million
The comedic actress has won the hearts of filmgoers with movies including Bridesmaids, Identity Theft, and The Heat. The actress honed her improvisational skills with Los Angeles’ Groundlings and soon gained a roll on the popular television series Gilmore Girls and the starring roll in television’s Mike and Molly. McCarthy had a successful year in 2016 with her hit Spy and Ghostbusters. She made $14 million for her role in Ghostbusters alone.
17. Mark Wahlberg – $17 million
The Boston born Mark Wahlberg began his Hollywood career as a rapper/singer. He has built his career as a successful actor and producer. Wahlberg’s film The Basketball Diaries in 1995 earned him just $60,000. He went on to earn $1 million for Boogie Nights, The Perfect Storm and The Italian Job. He also had a successful run on the HBO series and movie, Entourage. His role in 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction earned Wahlberg $17 million.
16. Angelina Jolie – $20 million
One of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, Angelina Jolie earned $20 million for Salt. Her role was originally meant for Tom Cruise but the script was changed when she was on board. The movie grossed $300 million, so Jolie probably made much more in backend deals. The daughter of actor Jon Voight, Jolie began modeling and acting at an early age. She quickly rose to fame for her acting and her personal life. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2000’s Girl, Interrupted. Jolie went on to play action heroes in films including Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Salt. She has honed her directing and production skills in films including Unbroken and By the Sea.
15. Sandra Bullock – $20 million
Sandra Bullock earned $20 million for her trapped in space role as Dr. Ryan Stone in 2013’s Gravity. Given the fact that she was mostly acting alone the entire movie, she deserved a big pay check. Ms. Bullock got back end profits from the movie earning her $77 million. Ms. Bullock has proven exceptional acting and producing roles throughout her career. From her breakout roles in Speed, While You Were Sleeping and A Time to Kill in the 1990’s leading to top billing roles in 2000’s 28 Days and Miss Congeniality, Bullock’s career has continued to rise. She also was the executive producer of the successful television series, George Lopez from 2002 to 2004.
14. Will Smith – $20 million
The rapper from West Philadelphia became a successful television actor in The Prince of Bel Air. Smith earned $100,000 for his role in Made In America. His salary steadily increased. Independence Day and Men In Black brought him a $5 million pay check each. More recently, Smith earned $20 million for his roles in After Earth and Suicide Squad.
13. Denzel Washington – $20 million
Denzel Washington is a successful actor director and producer. He began his acting career playing real life figures including Steve Biko in 1987’s Cry Freedom and Malcolm X in the 1992 film. His Academy Award winning role in Training Day earned Mr. Washington $12 million. American Gangster earned him $40 million. His latest films, The Book of Eli and 2 Guns each earned Mr. Washington a $20 million paycheck.
12. Jennifer Lawrence – $20 million
Jennifer Lawrence was the highest paid Hollywood actress in 2016. She earned $20 million for her role as Aurora Lane in 2016’s Passengers. She even received top billing over her costar Chris Pratt. Ms. Lawrence is just 26 years old and has won several elite awards including the Academy Award for 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook. Her break out role as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise brought her into the spotlight. She also stars as Mystique in the X-Men franchise. Other big earning films that brought her awards include American Hustle and Joy. Ms. Lawrence’s future films include mother! and Red Sparrow.
11. Johnny Depp – $20 million
Johnny Depp has had a long career as an actor, producer and a musician. The former teen idol got his acting start in the television series 21 Jump Street when he played Officer Tom Hanson from 1987 through 1991. The award winning actor began his film career during the 1980’s with parts in movies like Nightmare On Elm Street. He began a collaboration with director Tim Burton as the star of the quirky Edward Scissorhands in 1990. The two would go on to collaborate on movies including Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice In Wonderland. The film he earns the most for is his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Disney produced franchise Pirates of the Caribbean.
10. Adam Sandler – $25 million
The Brooklyn, New York native and Saturday Night Live alum has made a successful film career. The quirky comedic actor has stared in 49 films, produced 44 and written screenplays for 18 films. 1994’s Billy Madison earned Sandler $2.5 million. 1998’s The Wedding Singer earned the actor $5.5 million. Adam Sandler earned $25 million for 2004’s 50 First Dates and for 2011’s Jack and Jill.
9. Leonardo DiCaprio – $25 million
The talented Leonardo DiCaprio began his acting career on the television series Growing Pains. His break out film role, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, earned him $75,000. He made just $2.5 million for his role as Jack Dawson in 1997’s epic Titanic. The movie increased his demand in Hollywood leading to a $20 million salary for several films including 2000’s The Beach and 2013’s The Great Gatsby. DiCaprio earned $25 million plus bonuses for his riveting role in The Wolf of Wall Street. His Academy Award winning performance in 2015’s The Revenant earned him $20 million.
8. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – $25 million
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson may be the highest paid actor overall in 2016. With his successful roles in the Fast and Furious franchise and Guardians of the Galaxy, the year was good for him. The actor began his career playing college football and followed into the steps of his grandfather by becoming a 2wrestler. The Rock successfully broke into his acting career in 2006’s The Scorpion King earning $5.5 million. His money per film has steadily increased. He wisely opted to accept a lower salary ($10 million) for his role as a mechanic/stunt driver in the successful Fast and Furious franchise and receives Back End profits. Johnson earned $25 million for San Andreas Fault.
7. Matt Damon – $25 million
Matt Damon’s screen writing and acting career began with the success of Good Will Hunting in 1997. He earned just $100,000 for is role but along with friend, Ben Affleck, won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. His role as Jason Bourne in the series of successful Bourne Identity films earned him between $10 and $20 million each plus backend profits. For his role in 2015’s The Martian, Damon earned $25 million.
6. Harrison Ford – $25 million
Harrison earned an average of $20 to $25 million for his role as Indiana Jones in the action film series. With back end profits, he actually earned a total of $65 million for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Ford started his career in movies including 1973’s American Graffiti. His career took off with his iconic role as Han Solo in the Star Wars series for which he reprised his role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. His prolific acting career includes Working Girl, Patriot Games and Air Force One. Yet, Ford’s most lucrative role has been Indiana Jones.
5. Tom Cruise – $25 million
It is hard to believe but Tom Cruise earned just $50,000 for his role in 1981’s Taps and just $75,000 for his role as High School senior in 1983’s Risky Business. He went on to successfully grow his film career. Cruise actually did not take a fee for 2005’s War of the Worlds but wisely opted for 20% of the film’s profits. Cruise earned $12 million for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol released in 2011. Portraying Mission Impossible character Ethan Hunt in 2015 earned Cruise $25 million. The actor and famous Scientologist is believed to have an average annual income of $60 million.
4. Keanu Reeves – $30 million
Keanu Reeves has starred as an action hero and in romantic films. He broke out as an actor in the action film Speed. Reeves’ biggest paycheck came from the Matrix films for which he earned about $30 million a piece. Add in the back end profits, and Reeves earned $126 million for Matrix 2.
3. Mel Gibson – $30 million
Mel Gibson earned $30 million for Lethal Weapon 4. The prolific actor built his career as an action star in films including Lethal Weapon and Mad Max. He also directs and produces film which earns him a larger salary. Other popular films in which Gibson has starred include Hamlet, Braveheart, The Patriot, Signs, The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto.
2. Tom Hanks – $40 million
Tom Hanks earned $40 million for his Academy Award winning role in Forest Gump. Add in back end profits and he earned over $70 million. Hanks honed his acting skills in the theater and landed a role in the early 1980’s television series Bosom Buddies. That led to a film career with films including He was in several romantic comedies including Sleepless In Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. He starred in the film Big and the animated Toy Story series, Saving Private Ryan and The Green Mile. Hank’s role as a law partner fired because he had AIDS in Philadelphia earned him an Academy Award. Forest Gump earned him another Academy Award the following year. Hanks continues to earn a big paycheck for recent films including Sully and The Circle.
1. Robert Downey Jr. – $40 million
Robert Downey Jr. has earned more than any other actor for his role as Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) in the latest film of the franchise, The Avengers: Age of Ultron. The once troubled actor has earned his reputation as one of Hollywood’s most successful and talented actors. Downey began his career at a young age. He was considered a part of Hollywood’s “Brat Pack” during the 1980’s. He starred in 1985’s Weird Science, 1994’s Only You, 2007’s Zodiac and 2011’s Sherlock Holmes among many other films. His role as Tony Stark in Iron Man, the popular Marvel comics movie series have earned him a large paycheck.